At the annual conference of one of the world’s leading accounting software companies in Chicago this week, big names were overshadowed by future technologies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
It’s not often that actors like Ashton Kutcher and Gwyneth Paltrow have to compete for attention with accountants, but they have an uphill task this week.
At the Sage Summit 2016 conference in Chicago this week, these big stars are due to participate in keynote events highlighting their ventures into high-tech start-ups in the next two days. However, the biggest news came in yesterday’s opening keynote address by CEO Stephen Kelly, who declared a technology revolution for entrepreneurs and business builders.
Kelly was under significant pressure to deliver: more than 15 000 entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprise owners make the Sage Summit the world’s largest gathering of entrepreneurs and business builders. He did not disappoint them.
After investing more than R2-billion in research and development over the past year, Sage unveiled a plethora of new mobile, social, chatbot and Internet of Things offerings. It also launched a new Sage Live page offering customers support, product offerings and pricing.
“With a more connected world comes new demands on our hero business builders,” said Kelly. “We are working on making concepts like the Internet of Things, machine learning, blockchain and data sciences into a reality for businesses, accountants and partners. This is way more than cloud and mobile-first. It’s designing and building technologies that truly power businesses, freeing entrepreneurs to grow and win.”
With, 100 000 accountants around the world using Sage software, along with numerous other user categories, much of the buzz was focused on the news that the company’s real-time accounting solution, Sage Live, will be integrated with cutting edge tools from sales software leaders Salesforce.
Sage also formally launched a new admin “bot” – an artificial intelligence conversation system built into instant messaging and social media platforms. Called “Pegg”, it is a smart assistant that uses conversation to let users track expenses via any messaging app.
“Pegg removes the complexities and enables entrepreneurs to manage finances through conversation,” according to a company statement. “By digitising information at the point of capture, it takes away the pain from receipts and expenses, eradicating the need for paper and data entry. “
The first social platform to integrate Pegg is Slack, a social network geared towards enterprise messaging and collaboration. However, users can also work with it in Facebook Messenger, which has led the market in introducing chat bots.
“With the rise of freelancing and the sharing economy, the number of small businesses is growing exponentially,” says Kriti Sharma, Sage’s global director for mobile product management. “Most of these business owners use messaging apps, and with Pegg we aim to bridge the gap between these apps and work, rendering accounting invisible to the end user and making running a business as simple as sending a text.”
One of the most visionary evolutions of financial software was demonstrated by Sage’s executive vice president for product marketing, Jennifer Warawa. She showed how Sage Live can be integrated with TomTom Telematics for businesses with any size vehicle fleet to record mileage and automate expense reports – without any human intervention.
By running on the Salesforce platform, it can use existing integrations with third parties like TomTom WEBFLEET and make service journey data automatically available in Sage Live.
While this in itself may not set pulses racing, the vision behind such integration suggests a near future where administration takes second place to the more serious business of, well, running a business. It is not intended to put accountants out of business, but rather to allow them to play a more strategic role in business growth rather than focus on the “hard labour” of coordinating documents, logs, and other activity information.
The CEO’s keynote also saw some hard-hitting criticism of the support structures provided by officialdom. For one thing, it emerged that South African businesses are not alone in feeling that government lets them down. Kelly unveiled research which showed American entrepreneurs expressing high dissatisfaction with the support they get from the US Government.
In case there was any lingering suspicion of the Summit being a mere public relations exercise, he also weighed in on the ineffectual role of official events like the World Economic Forum in Davos, which he dismissed as being “out of touch”.
This echoes the views expressed earlier this year by Anton Van Heerden, managing director of Sage in South and Southern Africa. In a post on LinkedIn, he wrote that important voices were being excluded from the conversations taking place at Davos: “those of the risk-takers, entrepreneurs and small business owners who are increasingly the major drivers of wealth and job creation around the world.”
As a result, Kelly announced this week, Sage would introduce a series of policy events around the world to focus on the real needs of entrepreneurs.
It is a risky move to take Sage beyond the world of software and into the realm of policy. However, it is clear that the quest to remain relevant to customers goes beyond technology.
Huawei goes ultra-premium
Porsche Design and Huawei have launched the Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS in South Africa exclusive to MTN and retailing for R 26 459.
The Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS boasts features like the world’s first dual fingerprint design, including an in-screen fingerprint sensor, the world’s first Artificial Intelligence (AI) processor and Leica triple camera with 40MP image capture.
“After the overwhelming success of the Porsche Design Huawei Mate 10 Pro in South Africa, we now bring you our latest offering, a perfect blend of innovation in a smartphone and luxury design,” said Likun Zhao, Vice President of Huawei Consumer Business Group Southern Africa. “From three-point security feature including facial recognition, rear fingerprint scanner and the new innovative in-screen fingerprint to the Leica triple camera system. it culminates in an unprecedented experience for our customers.”
The device incorporates Porsche Design’s signature design language and Huawei’s breakthrough technology. The phone has a 6” 2K curved OLED screen and symmetrical look, minimalist feel and 8-edged 3D curved glass body.
High performance is symbolised by the naming of the smartphone: the term “RS” in the world of Porsche motorsport stands for outstanding racing performance.
Huawei provided the following information on The Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS benefits and features :
· The world’s first dual fingerprint scanner for enhanced convenience, allowing users to wake and unlock the device simply, thanks to an in-screen fingerprint sensor. Hover to wake the device, touch to unlock it
· The winning combination of Leica triple camera with 40MP RGB sensor technology and exceptional photography powered by Master AI. This combination puts effortless, eye-catching photography at the fingertips of those looking to immortalise their favourite moments. Combined with 5 x hybrid zoom, and the world’s first AI image stabilisation on a smartphone camera ensures photography lovers can capture the best shots with exceptional clarity in almost any situation
· The Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS is the first Huawei handset to allow quick wireless charging, making it even easier to keep the phone topped up and ready to go and, thanks to its long lasting battery, users will easily be powered through the busiest of days
· An ‘intelligent’ smartphone, the powerful AI processor automatically tailors the performance of the phone according to how it is used – constantly learning, understanding and anticipating needs, it is the perfect personal assistant for the pocket
· 256GB of internal storage means those constantly on the go and constantly on their phone can be worry free
· Dual SLS (super linear system) speakers with DOLBY ATMOS enable users to have a superior experience, with the best immersive surround sound and entertainment on the go
· Splash, water and dust resistant, which means there is no need to worry about damaging the device in the rain or accidentally dropping it in water
Jan Becker, CEO Porsche Design Group, said: “Both Porsche Design and Huawei seek to imagine and develop products that stand for precision and perfection, intelligent functionality and highly sophisticated design. Our aim was to create an outstanding device that goes one step further. We believe we have reached this goal by taking our partnership to the next level.”
Porsche Design and Huawei have worked in tandem to develop a smartphone that fuses together the two brands’ DNA, wealth of experience in design and technology, industry-leading expertise and exceptional performance. Through the use of colour in the device’s body, software themes and accessories, the new handset is accentuated with Porsche Design’s distinguished aesthetic and purist, minimalist feel.
The Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS will be available to purchase exclusively from MTN at R 26 459.
Cross-channel chat launched
Clickatell has launched a cross-channel live chat service, Touch Go, that transforms omni-channel customer care.
It enables live chat across a company’s website as well as social platforms (Twitter and Facebook) and mobile apps, bringing customer care and engagement into a single business platform.
“Today’s consumers expect to engage with your brand on the digital channel of their choosing,” says Deon van Heerden, Clickatell Engage CEO and Group CFO. “They want to message your business and instantly have queries resolved, find the information and services they are looking for, without the need for a voice call. Clickatell’s Touch Go makes that happen with the right level of capabilities for businesses of all sizes.”
Businesses can start using Touch Go immediately, with a free Starter option. Touch Go requires no credit card for sign-up and is fully featured with a simple setup process. It offers customisable branding, a unified chat desk business application as well as reports and analytics.
As the business scales up its digital customer care, it can opt-in for the Touch Enterprise offering. Touch Enterprise is designed for scaling up customer care efforts through advanced capabilities including AI driven virtual agents, sentiment analysis, automated workflows, enterprise integrations and in-channel mini-applications.
“Customer care has become a defining factor for sustained business success ” says Nirmal Nair, Clickatell Engage EVP Product & Marketing. “In an ever-increasing mobile native world, customers often choose to interact digitally, but they also expect to be able to reach a human immediately, should they need. Monitoring multiple channels and providing immediate action becomes challenging with siloed deployments. Touch’s unified solution allows businesses of all sizes to provide the customer delight in a simple modular approach.”